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This is a new segment I’ll be writing every so often. The idea is simple and the majority of you need no further explanation, but for my fellow surgeons who over-analyze, here are the details… I will review and categorize three different products that I’ll classify as good, the possibly good, and the downright wrong. There will be facts, followed by op-ed, and then the followers’ opinions. Keep an eye on my tweets @angryorthopod and chime in on the products, because I may use your opinion the following week. And as always, if you have a product you’d like me to review, or a topic you would like me to investigate, just shoot me a tweet.

The Good

New Balance

New Balance offers the big-box shoe lines, and then they also have lines for boutique stores. One of the boutique stores was kind enough to tell me that New Balance manufactures special lines just for specialty running stores. These stores have the capability of giving you shoes based on length and width, a big plus for those with difficult feet to fit. It’s important to remember that whatever shoe you choose, make sure that it feels good to you. If a New Balance rep gave me a shoe and said that it was the proper fit, but it didn’t feel good to me, I would never buy the shoe. If it feels good and looks good, go for it.

Here is some of the buzz from the Twittersphere and the AO Facebook page….

@skepnurse: NB shoes offer the best selection for wide feet

Cathy Sucher Cissé: New Balance 856 shoes have worked well for my…son following his foot surgeries and I appreciate the selection of widths.

The Maybe

Barefoot Running

Barefoot Running is the latest craze. I’m sure you’ve seen that weirdo walking around town without his shoes on, or in the Five Finger Vibram (is’nt this for the toes?) shoes. The whole concept rests on the idea that you can run faster and farther with fewer injuries by going barefoot. There are in fact studies that have qualified this account, but there are also studies discounting the benefits.

It’s weird, but there may be something to it. We aren’t exactly born with shoes on our feet. Our whole lives, we wear shoes to protect and cushion our feet. But maybe the same things we use with the intention of protecting our feet are actually messing up the alignment in the rest of our bodies? Honestly, I’m open to this concept of barefoot running. What do you think?

@skepnurse: barefoot is tough to transition to

@billjmetaxas: barefoot running (i.e. not heel toe running) emphasizes proper technique – mets, then heel… – remember how Deion Sanders ran? longer strides via met landings and high steps

Cathy Sucher Cissé: I have reservations about barefoot running for those who pronate severely as well as those with high arched rigid feet. In fact, any approach that has a one size fits all philosophy worries me.

Greg Pace: I did some barefoot running years ago and because of very high arches it didn’t work out to well for me. It was fun for a while though. :)

Daniella Strat: I loved the feeling of running barefoot for about two months…ankle pain after that. I have been a non-runner for the past 6 weeks and hating every minute of it. I know vibram runners that feel great running. I guess not my high arch foot. It is very hard going back to regular shoes after vibrams.

Chris Moore: Most athletes and rec runners are horribly imbalanced both in ROM and strength in/extrinsically. I like BF running and long term I think it yields fewer plantar fascia and ITB issues but anyone switching over needs to remember their feet will not …bare the mileage they are used to and must essentially start from scratch. For halfway enthusiasts, a motion control shoe is generally easier and provides the results most people want.

The Ugly

Skechers Shape-ups

I’m sure you all are familiar with the Kim Kardashian Shape-ups commercials, but for those of you who slept through its Super Bowl debut, here you go… Long story short, the company boasts the shoes as an exercising accessory that helps tone muscles while you work out.

Studies from the American Council on Exercise stated there is “simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.” In fact, American Council on Exercise’s Todd Galati found no difference between the special shoes and regular shoes, confirming, “These shoes are not a magic pill. It is the walking [encouraged by the shoes] that will make a difference in your life.”

I have to agree completely with Todd Galati. For people to actually believe that this is going to all of a sudden make them fit is unbelievable. However, there is a large number who have fallen prey to this marketing gimmick. People, it’s the walking that that’s making you skinnier, not the shoe!

There is one thing I do like about these shoes, at least on a case-by-case basis. The rocker bottom sole can potentially improve the gait of a person with limited hindfoot/ankle motion such as one who has had an ankle fusion. As for the person who has relatively normal feet and ankles this shoe makes little sense. However, as I tell my patients, if it feels good and looks good, go for it. As for these shoes, “looks good” is a real stretch.

@laurusrehabs: Shape-ups = total gimmick & falls risk to older pop, among other things.

@skepnurse: Skechers look like nothing but hype.

Aaron Burkett: Not a big fan of the Shape-ups. See too many people that don’t have enough strength in hip, knee and foot and the instability that the shoe creates when moving from heel strike to mid stance and mid stance to toe off. See too many people… with that instability and “throws the knee forward” with poor control. Saw one lady working out in those shoes, had so much knee valgus and tibial ER the shoe wasnt doing anything except creating knee pain and overload of valgus position. Just my opinion. @ptfromou

Cathy Sucher Cissé: Have not tried Shape-ups and never will. I think you need a certain degree of gullibility that (I hope!) I don’t possess.

Overall, seems like everyone knows it’s a ruse… so why are we buying it?

Leave us your thoughts on all these topics. We would love to hear from you.

-AO